Establishing Liability in Florida Dog Bite Cases

Earlier this month, a Georgia appellate court issued a written opinion in a dog bite case in which the plaintiff was bitten by a neighbor’s dog after she was invited over to the neighbor’s home. In that case, the court discussed in detail that state’s requirement that the plaintiff establish not only that the dog was vicious or dangerous but also that the defendant knew about the dog’s dangerous nature.Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence of the defendants’ knowledge of the dog’s dangerous nature. Specifically, the court pointed to two instances in which the dog had snapped at people when they attempted to feed it. This evidence, the court held, was sufficient evidence to establish that the owners of the dog knew or should have known that the dog could be dangerous.

Florida Law Does Not Require a Plaintiff to Prove That the Defendant Knew a Dog Was Dangerous

Unlike the law in neighboring Georgia, Florida law does not require that a dog bite plaintiff prove that the defendant knew that the dog was dangerous. In fact, Florida Statute 767.04 clearly states that any time a dog bites another person, the owner “is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.” Of course, if the dog attacked the plaintiff while the plaintiff was on the defendant’s property, the plaintiff will need to show that they were legally permitted to be present on the defendant’s land.

Reading the statute, under Florida law, a dog bite plaintiff need not prove the defendant’s knowledge of the dog’s dangerousness. However, the plaintiff also does not need to show the dog had previously acted in a dangerous manner. In this way, Florida law is more plaintiff-friendly than many other states. However, Florida law does consider the plaintiff’s own negligence as a factor in the analysis. Specifically, the law states that the plaintiff’s ultimate award amount will be reduced by their own percentage of fault in bringing about their injuries. For example, if a plaintiff is taunting a dog prior to being bitten, the jury may reduce the plaintiff’s damages by whichever percentage of fault the jury assigns to the plaintiff.

There is a curious exception to dog bite liability under Florida law, and that is if the defendant posts a sign reading “bad dog.” In this situation, the defendant may be able to avoid liability in some cases in which the defendant was not at all negligent in causing the dog bite.

Have You Been a Victim of a Florida Dog Bite?

If you or a loved one has recently been attacked by another person’s dog, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Florida law is plaintiff-friendly when it comes to dog bite liability, but that does not mean that all cases will be easy to prove. Contact the dedicated personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank to discuss your case with a personal injury advocate who can advise you about your available courses of action and whether you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Our team of attorneys can be reached at 877-448-8585.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Appellate Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement, Rejecting Nursing Home’s Argument, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 30, 2017.

Court Characterizes Doctor’s Office Slip-and-Fall Accident as a Medical Malpractice Incident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 9, 2017.

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